NEW YORK—Carol Cone, founder and former CEO of Cone Communications and most recently head of business and social purpose at Edelman, has launched a New York-based consultancy called Carol Cone On Purpose.
Cone, whose firm was among the first to specialize in cause branding, and which developed much of the thought leadership and intellectual property that underpins cause-related marketing, says her new firm will “support organizations along their ‘purpose’ journey, helping them identify, amplify, and evolve purpose to become more powerful and central to their business and brand strategy.”
Cone has partnered with key clients such as Unilever, Microsoft, PNC, the American Heart and American Lung Associations, Avon, Adobe, Reebok and Rockport, developing programs that delivered commercial success and societal impact, including Reebok’s human rights initiative and Avon’s signature breast cancer work.
“Today an authentic, integrated purpose can deeply engage employees and customers, drive innovation, and impact every facet of operations,” says Cone. “The world has changed. Attitudes have changed, the economy has changed, the climate has changed. Everything is so interconnected and radically transparent that power has shifted to people.
“We call them ‘citizen consumers.’ They are demanding that businesses use their resources to help solve some of the big societal problems, not just their own operational ones. For decades, organizations questioned ‘if’ they should engage with social issues. But it is now about ‘how’ to do it, and with credibility, in a sustained way.”
The new firm has two main business groups: The Purpose Collaborative and The Idea Accelerator. The former comprises nearly two dozen agencies, consultancies and subject matter experts coming together in customized teams to solve challenges. The Idea Accelerator is a showcase for social innovations, large and small, matching them with companies seeking breakthrough partners and programs.
Purpose Collaborative partners include New York-based sustainable brand strategy firm BBMG, tech-centric creative agency The Barbarian Group, and employee engagement firm Imperative; Chicago nonprofit and foundation strategy agency Social Capital; London reputation and research firm Reputation Leaders; Los Angeles creative group Enso; Boston multimedia production company Parallax Productions; and San Francisco digital analytics and marketing communications agency W2O.
“I wanted to find the next model,” she says. “This model will allow us to bring together a diverse range of talent on the ‘Hollywood model’” (an “open talent” approach similar to bringing together directors, actors, and other professionals around a specific project) “working together in a collaborative way. Everyone is bringing very specific capabilities in a way that is smart, nimble and efficient.
“The depth of The Purpose Collaborative enables us to go further than traditional CSR, sustainability, cause programming, employee engagement and management consulting to build purpose into the fabric of a company and brand,” she says.
Cone is joined in her new venture by two partners, Elizabeth Davis and Joe Dobrow. Davis, an expert in millennial engagement strategy, public-private partnerships and corporate sustainability, most recently worked at The Coca-Cola Company. Dobrow is a brand strategist in retail and food marketing, and author of Natural Prophets, an entrepreneurial history of the natural foods industry and its focus on “triple-bottom-line” management.